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Small Things Can Change the World

January 13, 2022


“Mucha gente pequeña, en lugares pequeños, hacienda cosas pequeñas, pueden cambiar el mundo.”
“Many small people, in small places, doing small things can change the world.”

– Eduardo Galeano, Journalist

Juan’s story, like so many of ours, is about the pursuit of happiness, opportunity, and prosperity. In the late 1980s Juan was the first in his family to make the sojourn from his hometown of Puebla, Mexico, where he was a trained educator, to the United States. 

Los Angeles is Juan’s second home. He spent his days working in restaurants washing dishes and pans, and spent his nights attending school, learning English, and the “ins and outs” of living in the US. Juan’s transition was difficult; culturally and linguistically, he felt like an outsider. Nevertheless, Juan persevered—he found connections in the expansive LA-Latino community, mastered a second language, and secured employment. Ultimately, Juan earned his Associates Degree at Los Angeles City College in 1998 and Bachelor’s Degree at California State University, Los Angeles in 2003.

As part of his undergraduate studies, Juan embarked on an academic internship at The Eastmont Community Center in East Los Angeles. His internship introduced him to the essential role volunteers had in keeping the doors open and programs thriving. In that same year, Juan found L.A. Works and has never looked back. As a 20-year veteran of the volunteer community and a more recent member of #CaliforniansForAll, Juan has volunteered and led countless projects: everything from feeding the homeless, providing homework help, filing taxes for families with limited resources, completing the annual homeless count, joining as a Peace Ambassador for the Women’s March, and doing school, beach, and park beautification projects. 

“It gives me a sense of purpose in life. When I help someone that needs more than I do or when I help to beautify a school or park, the feeling of fulfillment is exceptional. There are no words to describe the feeling. Also, it gives me an opportunity to meet new people and get to know my community.”

Juan will take part in his 15th MLK Day of Service as an L.A. Works Project Leader. He will work with hundreds of volunteers on a beautification project at Hillcrest Drive Elementary School in South Los Angeles, and complete a mural, gardening, and clean-up group effort to revitalize the school.

To L.A. Works’ credit, the day has taken on deeper meaning beyond the physical improvements. Juan noted that on MLK Day, other volunteers will learn about the achievement gap and how they can play a larger role in building education equity. Community members can also participate in a virtual March on Washington through the world of Minecraft..

Juan regards Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Mahatma Gandhi, Nelson Mandela, and current President of Mexico, Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, as a source of inspiration. When he sees their leadership and learns from them, Juan feels a deep sense of motivation. Juan considers volunteering as his “responsibility and duty as a citizen.”

With the words of journalist Eduardo Galeano embedded deep in his heart, Juan continues volunteering in Los Angeles, his adopted home of 33 years. Juan has been a L.A. Works volunteer/leader for 20 years and is an activated and engaged member of the #CaliforniansForAll local cadre in Southern California.

Join Juan and fellow volunteers working with L.A. Works and the #CFA Local Volunteer Cadre by visiting their website, here. MLK Day Volunteers will be able to participate in virtual workshops including an interactive college/career fair, online tutoring, and a virtual workshop featuring teachers to learn more about the academic achievement gap. Volunteers can also explore the March on Washington through the world of Minecraft, and virtually interact with civil rights heroes of yesterday and today. L.A. Works’ mission consists of three principal pillars: increase volunteer participation in community service projects; provide their nonprofit partners with access to volunteer labor and other resources; and educate and encourage people to engage in the broader social issues affecting the greater Los Angeles Community.

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